HindeSight Letters #94 November 2022 - Newsletter - OUT NOW
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HINDESIGHT DIVIDEND UK - PORTFOLIO #1 NOV 22
On the 24th June 1812, Napoleon marched his near half million men, Grande Armee across the Neman river and into modern day Belarus and Lithuania, with the intention of defeating and capturing the Russian armies and Moscow. Although St Petersburg was the capital of Russia then, Moscow was a significant prize to achieve for Napoleon and he stayed there for five weeks, waiting for the peace offer that never came. As the first snows fell and temperatures dropped, Napoleon retreated the same way he had come but the winter weather was a formidable foe, with less than 50,000 men making it back alive to see France again.
Some 129 years later, almost to the day, (22nd June 1941), Hitler attempted the same feat with the largest army contingent at war in history, some 3.8 million men and 600,000 vehicles, for Operation Barbarossa. His generals got within view of the Kremlin spires, with Stalin contemplating withdrawal to Kuybyshev behind the Ural mountains, but the European Winter of 1941-42 was the coldest of the twentieth century, with temperatures regularly close to -40°C, and the German soldiers froze in their thousands. (Note to self-plan any future invasion of invasion of Russia before June)
With the first snows falling on Kyiv/Kiev and night-time temperatures dropping below freezing, seeing the Russians digging in for winter along the South-East line of the Dneiper river, the historians will worry about the human life cost, not just to combatants, as Russia continues to target Ukrainian infrastructure. But, we have learnt something about conventional wars in the 21st century in Europe. While nuclear weapons have long been known for their scale of destruction, the modern weaponry used by Ukrainian forces, such as the HIMRAs, (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), mostly supplied by the US have seemingly made the use of tanks and aircraft obsolete with their new vulnerability.
Internecine destruction by long-range artillery fire with infantry advances almost brings us back to the terrible, early days of WWI. As the US signs away another $400mil of ‘support’, (God knows where that cash actually ends up), there is no end in sight for any negotiated settlement, we must prepare for an extended continuation of this tragic conflict. The failure of all parties to administer the Minsk Agreements of the disputed territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, the failure of the United Nations to prevent the invasion of Ukraine continues with the failure of Nato and Europe to come up with a solution now that prevents future bloodshed and geo-political fragmentation.
But, of course, we must remember Ned Price, US State Department spokesman telling gathered reporters in his March 21st press briefing, “this is a war that is in many ways bigger than Russia, it’s bigger than Ukraine”, as he actively discouraged talks between Russia and Ukraine, until US core interests had been addressed.
I believe those core interests are very much along the lines that the US biggest fear was not just the growing power of China, but the real concerns of a full China-Russia alliance that would jeopardise the US geopolitical power base. So drawing Ukraine into a conflict with Russia and heavily supporting them would weaken Russia severely, so that the focus could remain on the Indo-China sphere and potential conflict there.
As a keen student of history, I often feel the need to pinch myself to understand how, in our ‘modern’, advanced, high tech society, we are sitting here watching a European war, a 30-year old running a $26bn ‘Ponzi’ scheme and a football World Cup in one of the most repressive countries in the world, racked in corruption and controversy.
Have we learnt nothing from history, or are we just programmed to repeat its failings?
A few weeks ago, the second biggest Cryptocurrency platform, FTX, ‘valued’ at $32bn less than a year ago, filed for bankruptcy, with more than a million creditors. (fat chance!)…..
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